Solution Grid, in case you get really stuck
I’m ending 2014 with a variety Split Decisions puzzle. There’s no online solving option for this grid, so fire up your old Inkjet and print this sucker out. If this type of puzzle is all-new to you, never fear: the instructions are in the PDF.
This is my favorite type of variety puzzle to solve, though creating it…..that’s a different story. There are no clues like you’d find in standard crosswords, which you’d think would help save a lot of time — especially in my case, since cluing often takes me more time than filling the grid itself. But there isn’t any easy option for creating or exporting a Split Decisions puzzle from Crossword Compiler (I don’t think), so even after you get a workable grid, all that time you save from not having to write clues gets eaten up by typesetting and illustrating the bastard in Photoshop. You have to create a template for the split squares, copy and paste the template all over, rotate the template 90 degrees for the Down answers, enter the letters manually, and rinse and repeat until you’re done. Then you’ll probably want to create a solution grid. And if you’re like me, you might want to spend some extra time making sure the typed letters are aligned neatly rather than staggered haphazardly throughout the squares. Basically, it takes some dirty work to make a Split Decisions puzzle look like a Split Decisions puzzle. It’s not hard to do if you’ve got some Photoshop know-how, but it is a bit tedious.
I learned all of this the hard way last summer, when I created one of these grids for the first time (one that’s twice as big as today’s puzzle) and sent it off to WordPlay magazine, which they accepted. You’ll see that puzzle later in 2015. So that’s good news. Even more good news is that my wife Vicki (who’s far better at design and illustrative software than I) showed me a little shortcut for creating the solution grid, and that probably shaved off at least an hour or two of puzzle-editing time.
All of that leads me to what is really a long overdue note of gratitude for Vicki. She’s supported me this entire time I’ve been a neurotic puzzle nerd, even when I’ve been uncertain about a host of other things in the rest of my life. She’s listened to me bounce countless puzzle ideas off her even though she doesn’t care much about crosswords, and she’s even inspired a few puzzle themes of her own (remember my first meta puzzle, Tech Revolution? That was her idea). Oh, and she helped me in a big way build this website and make it look all shiny and stuff in the first place. And then there’s the whole being-an-awesome-wife thing that she does every day. Whatever happens with me and Devil Cross, I’m lucky as hell to be with her, and if I can be half as good a puzzlemaker as she is a spouse and friend, I’ll be in good shape.
Enjoy the puzzle, and here’s to a happy new year. The first Devil Cross puzzle of the new year will be on January 3, 2015.